CBN vs. CBD: how do these cannabinoids compare?


Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission when you click links in this content. Our professional curators independently research and recommend products and services, with no newsroom involvement. Merchants can pay for a sponsored listing and may choose to rewrite their summary. When that happens, we label the listing as “Sponsored” and highlight it in grey to differentiate the merchant-provided content from our writing.

Cannabis contains over 100 cannabinoids, chemical compounds that interact with the human endocannabinoid system (ECS). The most well-known and studied cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis and is responsible for its characteristic high. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive with immense therapeutic benefits.

Besides THC and CBD, other cannabis cannabinoids include cannabigerol (CBG), cannabinol (CBN), and tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV). Each of these cannabinoids has unique properties and bodily effects, and researchers are still learning more about their potential benefits and uses.

Although cannabis contains a broad array of cannabinoids, the amount of each cannabinoid present typically varies with the strain, growing conditions, and extraction methods used. This variability is what makes cannabis such a complex and intriguing plant. In this article, we shine the light on CBN vs CBD to better understand how they work, their similarities and differences, and their potential benefits.

Kush Queen Gummies RX Sleep CBN+CBD Chews 30 Count

$79.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

Key Takeaways

  • CBD is a mostly non-psychoactive cannabinoid known for its stress and anxiety-relieving properties.
  • CBN is a mildly psychotropic cannabinoid popular for its sedating effects.
  • Taking CBD and CBN together enhances their overall potency and efficacy.

What is CBN?

Cannabinol (CBN) is a cannabis cannabinoid formed when tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the main psychoactive component of cannabis—degrades due to oxidation or exposure to light and air. CBN is typically found in low concentrations in fresh cannabis, but its levels increase over time as the plant material ages and THC breaks down.

CBN is less psychoactive than THC, but it is believed to have some therapeutic properties. Some studies suggest that CBN may have potential as a sleep aid and anti-inflammatory agent, among other uses. However, more research is needed to fully understand CBN’s potential benefits and risks.

Sleepy Zs CBD, CBN Gummies - (10ct) 250mg

$19.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

What is CBD?

CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that forms when cannabidiolic acid (CBDa) decarboxylates. The precursor for all cannabinoids, cannabigerolic acid (CBGa), first converts into four different entities, including CBDa, from which CBD originates.

CBD is a major cannabinoid, so its levels in CBD-dominant strains are considerable and can range from 10% to 20%. Today, cannabis legalized for commercial and research purposes in the U.S is selectively bred to be CBD-rich with minimal THC content. This aligns with the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized low-THC cannabis with not more than 0.3% THC content.

CBD is one of the most in-demand cannabinoids at the moment. This naturally occurring compound is hugely popular for its non-psychoactive effects and broad potential health benefits. We will get to these momentarily.

Godfather OG CBD

$10.00  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

How Do CBN and CBD Work?

Cannabinoids, including CBN and CBD, affect the body by targeting the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is an intricate network of cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), enzymes, and endocannabinoids (anandamide or AEA and 2-AG).

Collectively, these components of the ECS help maintain homeostasis and optimal body functioning. As a result, the ECS is broadly implicated in various body functions such as sleep, learning, memory, pain processing, reproduction, immune system functioning and inflammatory responses, temperature, etc.

Interestingly, phytocannabinoids, i.e., plant cannabinoids like CBD and CBN, can also affect the ECS by interacting variably with its receptors. For example, CBD displays a low affinity for both CB1 and CB2 receptors, where it can behave as an agonist and antagonist. Similarly, CBN can bind to both CB1 and CB2 receptors, albeit at one-quarter the potency of THC.

When they bind to these receptors, cannabinoids trigger various physiological and behavioral responses. Once the cannabinoids and receptors achieve their intended pharmacological effect, the enzymes break them down to stop an overcorrection.

Research further shows that CBN and CBD interact with non-cannabinoid receptors outside the ECS. This might explain the intricate variations in their broad range of effects. In truth, cannabinoid activity is not properly understood, so more work is still required to help us understand how these compounds work.

Do CBN and CBD Get You High?

No, CBD will not make most people high. If you’re a beginner that has just started dipping your toes into the sea of cannabis, you might feel slightly high from CBD. But, most people won’t. As far as CBN is concerned, the cannabinoid is called a psychotropic, meaning that it can induce a high but won’t intoxicate you too much.

But remember that the psychoactive effects of THC are attributed to its binding and subsequent activation of the CB1 receptor. CBN, as we have discussed, is roughly ¼ as potent as THC, meaning it weakly activates the CB1 receptor. As a result, you would need a substantially large dose of CBN to get high.

So, both CBN and CBD are unlikely to make you high. In fact, CBD may even antagonize known CB1 receptor agonists, which explains why it can mitigate the psychoactive effects of THC.

How to Take CBD and CBN

Given the many potential benefits of CBN and CBD, people want novel ways to take CBN, CBD, and other cannabinoids. Of course, how you take cannabinoids determines how they react in your body and their subsequent effects.

Expectedly, people have different health and wellness goals for using cannabinoids. So, regardless of whether you take CBN and CBD for recreational or medicinal purposes, here are the main ways to take them.

CBD + CBN-Infused Edibles

CBDFx CBD + CBN Oil Calming Tincture

$39.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

Edibles are pretty popular among cannabis users. These are just regular treats infused with cannabis compounds, such as CBD and CBN. From gummies to pills, capsules, homemade brownies, and cookies, edibles are in vogue.

And it is easy to see why; edibles offer more convenience. For example, gummies are easy to carry around and use anywhere. They also allow flexible dosing because you can split a gummy into smaller sizes if it is potent. With pills and capsules, you simply pop one or two (depending on your dose), and that is it! Fortunately, CBD + CBN gummies are quite abundant and readily available.

Homemade edibles like brownies and cookies are less convenient than gummies and capsules. However, they allow you more control in terms of the ingredients used, potency, flavor, etc. You essentially make them according to your preference.

CBD + CBN Oil and Tinctures

Haleigh's Hope CBD Nasal Spray 5mg

$149.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

Apart from edibles, CBD/CBN-infused oils and tinctures are other practical ways of taking CBD and CBN. These are ideally taken sublingually, i.e., placed under the tongue before being swallowed.

One advantage of CBD + CBN-infused oils and tinctures is that they are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. As a result, their effects kick in faster than edibles. CBD/CBN oils and tinctures made with MCT oils have more bioavailability since MCT oils have shorter fat chains than other oils typically used to dilute CBD or CBN isolates or concentrates.

CBD + CBN Nasal Sprays

PlusCBD Total Plant Complex Spray Café Mocha 100mg

$19.99  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

Nasal sprays belong to a group of cannabis-based products called inhalables. As the name suggests, inhalables are taken via the nose/mouth to the lungs. Like sublinguals, aerosols have the advantage of entering your systemic circulation directly, meaning their effects are felt within minutes.

However, cannabis-based aerosols have short-lived effects. Therefore, you may need to re-dose more frequently.

CBD + CBN Topicals

R & R CBN + CBD Salve

$48.00  in stock
as of June 14, 2023 1:52 pm

Cannabinoid-infused formulations have been witnessing something of a rebirth, especially in sports. A growing number of top-tier athletes and fitness enthusiasts use topical formulations to manage pain and inflammation, among other exercise-induced issues.

Topicals work because the skin is porous and can absorb substances applied to it. This allows beneficial cannabinoids to bind to ECS receptors in the skin and bring about therapeutic benefits.

CBD and CBN are both potent anti-inflammatories, analgesics, and antioxidants. These attributes can be valuable in dealing with pain and inflammation. However, topicals do not penetrate the skin deep enough to reach underlying tissues, so they are ideal for superficial conditions.

But manufacturers are getting creative and enhancing the absorbability of topicals by adding penetration enhancers. So, these topicals can penetrate the skin better and reach deeper-lying tissues.

What Are the Similarities Between CBN and CBD?

CBN and CBD are both cannabinoids found in hemp, so they do have some things in common. For example, they are both non-psychoactive. CBN may be closely related to THC, but it is largely non-psychotomimetic, i.e., it does not induce mind-altering effects.

These two also share some therapeutic qualities. Studies indicate that CBD and CBN are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic. For this reason, they can be used together to enhance their effects.

Like other cannabinoids, CBN and CBD interact with non-cannabinoid receptors outside the ECS. This explains why a cannabinoid can produce a diversity of bodily effects.

What’s The Difference Between CBD and CBN?

When looking at CBD vs CBN, the two are different in several ways. For starters, CBD results from a decarboxylation process involving cannabidiolic acid (CBDa). On the other hand, CBN is the product of an oxidation process involving THC.

These two cannabinoids also differ in how they interact with the ECS. CBN displays a weak affinity for CB1 and CB2 receptors, whereas CBD exhibits agonist and antagonist tendencies at the same receptors. CBN, for instance, demonstrates an agonist relationship with transient receptor potential (TRP) cation channels, e.g., TRPV2.

CBD also exhibits a broad range of targets outside the ECS, including TRP cation channels, GPR, 5-HT1A, and PPAR receptors. This is why it has such a wide pharmacological profile, hence its popularity.

Finally, the other key difference between CBD and CBN is their abundance. CBD is a major cannabinoid that exists in substantial quantities in hemp (10% to 20%). CBN, on the other hand, exists only in trace amounts, making it a minor cannabinoid.

However, selective breeding has made it possible to develop strains with particular traits. As a result, there are claims that some growers have developed CBN-rich strains with up to 5% CBN.

CBN vs. CBD Potential Benefits

Cannabinoids have generated a buzz in many circles thanks to their potential benefits. CBD is certainly well ahead of CBN in this regard due to the extensive research it has been subjected to. Nonetheless, existing studies suggest that these cannabinoids may have substantial benefits. CBN’s potential uses may include the following:

  • Appetite stimulation
  • Pain relief
  • Sleep promotion
  • Treating burns
  • Treating skin conditions

CBD is, of course, more studied than CBN, so its potential benefits are well-established. They include:

  • Pain and inflammation relief
  • Stress and anxiety reduction
  • Mitigating oxidative stress
  • Appetite control
  • Brain health

Evidently, CBD and CBN have immense medicinal and therapeutic benefits. As such, more research is needed to clarify the gray areas still fueling skepticism about cannabis compounds and impeding their complete adoption into mainstream medicine.

CBN vs. CBD Potential Side Effects

CBD is generally viewed as “a safe and well-tolerated” cannabinoid with minimal side effects. This is why it is exempted from WADA’s list of prohibited performance-enhancing substances and is not scheduled under the Controlled Substances Act.

Be that as it may, CBD might induce unwanted side effects such as:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness

CBD can interact with other medications, thus affecting their efficacy. For this reason, you should consult your physician before using cannabinoid products if you are on medication. People on blood-thinning, anticonvulsants, thyroid, and heart rhythm medications are particularly susceptible to developing health complications if they use CBD.

Studies on CBN are not advanced, so it is unclear how it may adversely affect users. That said, CBN is closely related to THC, so drowsiness and sedation are probable side effects. Also, users risk failing a drug test due to its close link to THC.

CBN vs. CBD: Which One Is Better?

Whether CBN is better than CBD or vice versa depends on your health goal. Both cannabinoids possess different medicinal and therapeutic profiles and may benefit users differently.

Generally, cannabinoids are believed to work better together hence the “entourage effect” theory. So, the best way of getting the most out of CBD and CBN is by taking them together. Indeed, makers of hemp products leverage the art of mixing cannabinoids to enhance the efficacy and potency of their products.

Can You Take CBD and CBN Together?

Absolutely yes! You can take CBD and CBN together to enhance their overall therapeutic effects. Moreover, taking cannabinoids together is advantageous because it reduces the overall dose you take of each cannabinoid. This is particularly useful with rare and expensive cannabinoids. It doesn’t always have to be CBN vs CBD; it can be CBN and CBD!

What Is the Legal Status of CBD and CBN?

CBD and CBN are federally legal cannabis compounds. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp with low THC levels not exceeding 0.3%. In effect, any derivative or compound of hemp is legal, CBN and CBD included.

However, you may want to check with individual states to ensure you remain compliant. Despite the federal Farm Bill being signed into law in 2018, some states, like Idaho, are yet to ratify this law. This makes hemp and its derivatives illegal in such places.

Where to Buy CBN and CBD Products Online

CBD and CBN products are abundant, creating concerns regarding their quality, efficacy, and safety. Here are some products that should be a reliable option.

Our favorite CBN gummies come from Otter Space, one of the biggest names in the world of hemp products. One of their most popular products is these Nighttime CBD+CBN gummies that contain 25mg of CBD and 15mg of CBN per gummy. These raspberry-flavored edibles are designed to help you drift effortlessly into sleep and keep sleeping for a long time.

If you’re looking to smoke up some CBD, this Blueberry Kush CBD flower from Botany Farms is a great option. This is an indica-dominant flower that contains over 14% CBD and has a few other cannabinoids as well. It’s compliant with the US Farm Bill and features an amazing blueberry scent and flavor that’s definitely going to make you want more.


You can also try this Dream CBD Oil tincture from Batch CBD for chronic sleep problems. It comes in two strength levels, 1,000mg, and 2,000mg, and contains terpinolene, linalool, and myrcene to ensure sleep comes easy and stays longer.

We also have a CBN + CBD tincture in a 1:3 ratio from CBDistillery. It’s perfectly balanced to help you sleep better. For best results, take this tincture sublingually according to the prescribed dosage guidelines. This full-spectrum formula is bound to put you to sleep!

If you are a sweet tooth, these CBD:CBN Sleep gummies from MoonWlker are your go-to. With 10mg of CBN and 25mg of CBD per gummy, these mixed berry-flavored gluten-free edibles do precisely what they are made to do – get you sleeping!

Conclusion — CBD vs. CBN

CBD and CBN are cannabinoids with potential health benefits. But apart from CBD, not much is known about minor cannabinoids like CBN. While more research is definitely needed, existing findings are certainly promising.

That said, we encourage care and due diligence when using cannabinoids to avoid unwanted mishaps. Some, like CBD, can cause undesirable effects, so caution when using cannabinoids is undoubtedly necessary. Start with low doses and, if need be, increase the dosage gradually to achieve your health objectives. We hope you found our CBN vs CBD analysis to be informative!

Hearst Newspapers participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission when you purchase products featured here. Please consult your doctor before starting any new supplement to see it is right for you.